Poor self-recognition of disordered eating among girls with bulimic-type eating disorders: cause for concern?

Authors

  • Kassandra Gratwick-Sarll,

    Corresponding author
    1. Research School of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
    • Corresponding author: Miss Kassandra Gratwick-Sarll, Research School of Psychology, Australian National University, Room 224, Building 39, Canberra, ACT 0200 Australia. Email: Kassandra.Gratwick-Sarll@anu.edu.au

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  • Caroline Bentley,

    1. Research School of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
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  • Carmel Harrison,

    1. Research School of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
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  • Jonathan Mond

    1. Research School of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
    2. Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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Abstract

Aim

Bulimic-type eating disorders are common among young women and associated with high levels of distress and disability and low uptake of mental health care. We examined self-recognition of disordered eating and factors associated with this among female adolescents with bulimic-type eating disorders (n = 139) recruited from a large, population-based sample.

Methods

A vignette of a fictional character with bulimia nervosa was presented, followed by a series of questions addressing the nature and treatment of the problem described. One of these questions required participants to indicate whether they currently had a problem such as the one described. Self-report measures of eating disorder symptoms, general psychological distress and quality of life were also completed.

Results

More than half of participants (58%) did not believe that they currently had a problem with their eating. In multivariable analysis, impairment in emotional well-being and self-induced vomiting were the only variables independently associated with self-recognition. Participants who recognized a problem with their eating were more likely to have sought treatment for an eating problem than those who did not.

Conclusions

Recognition of disordered eating among adolescents with bulimic-type eating disorders may be poor and this may be a factor in low uptake of mental health care. Health promotion efforts may need to address the misconception that only bulimic-type disorders involving self-induced vomiting are pathological.

Ancillary